Clark Howard

The Worst Kind of Identity Theft (and How To Prevent It)

Falling victim to identity theft is not only a big headache, but it’s also a serious crime that you would do well to safeguard yourself against.

Money expert Clark Howard says while you can take many precautions to avoid falling victim to identity thieves, “the checking account is one of the greatest holes that exist with identity theft,” he says.

Do You Have a Checking Account? Read This

Unfortunately, a listener to the Clark Howard Podcast had just such a thing happen to his girlfriend. Someone not only opened a checking account in her name, but tried to withdraw several thousand dollars from different accounts, used her credit card and tried to open a home equity loan in her name.

Throughout the ordeal, which was handled by law enforcement, the couple was made aware of an identity theft passport, which is a program to help victims of identity theft.

Identity Theft Passports: 5 Things To Know

Have you been a victim of identity theft? If so, read on. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about identity theft passports — including how to get one.

1. What Is an Identity Theft Passport?

An identity theft passport is a document that proves to law enforcement that you were a victim of identity theft and essentially adjudicates your liability for any charges incurred for the crime. More importantly, the passport helps you reclaim your identity.

Clark says that the importance of identity theft passports has grown over the years.

“Since the 1980s, victims have had warrants out for their arrests, and police don’t know what to do with them,” he says. “And next thing you know, you’re in handcuffs. So that’s why States Attorneys General are issuing these documents that you can present to a police officer who otherwise is going to cart you away to jail.”

2. Are Identity Theft Passports Offered in Every State?

Although identity theft passports have become more common in recent years, they are still not offered in every U.S. state.

“People need a way, particularly with fake checking accounts, to have this document that you carry with you showing that a fake account was opened,” Clark says.

Clark adds that he hopes that all 50 states have identity theft passports soon. “There needs to be a standard 50-state form that the Attorneys General in each state can do,” he says.

3. How To Get an Identity Theft Passport

“If you’re ever someone who finds out that someone opened a checking account as if they were you, you want to see if your state offers an identity theft passport through your Attorney General’s Office,” Clark says.

While many states offer identity theft passports through their respective Attorney General’s Office, some go through other agencies. For example, in New Mexico, you’d apply for an identity theft passport through the state’s Motor Vehicle Department.

You’ll typically have to fill out an online application to get into the program. Information you’ll need to divulge includes:

  • A copy of your driver's license.
  • The date you became aware of the ID theft.
  • County/city/state where the incident occurred.
  • Locality in which you filed a police report.
  • Name and phone number of the officer who took the report.

In some states, as a condition of becoming eligible for the identity theft passport program, you’ll need to submit the police report as well as various receipts and letters from creditors involved in the fraudulent transactions.

As an example, here’s what the identity theft passport application looks like for the state of Virginia.

Screenshot via oag.state.va.us

To help you find information on identity theft passports in the state where you live, we’ve researched all 50 states and compiled a list (below) of the ones we could locate online.

4. What States Have Identity Theft Passports?

As of June 2024, the following states have identity theft passports. I’ve also included a few states with similar ID theft documentation programs.

What If Your State Doesn’t Have Identity Theft Passports?

“In states that don’t have identity theft passports, you’ll want a police report stating that a checking account was opened under false circumstances,” Clark says.

For detailed information on what resources are available to you, regardless of where you live, check out IdentityTheft.gov, a website from the Federal Trade Commission.

5. What Happens After You’ve Applied for and Received Your Identity Theft Passport?

After you've applied for your identity theft passport, you can expect some weeks to go by before receiving it depending on the state you filed it with. "It may take up to 30 days to determine the IDPP applicant's eligibility," it says on the Iowa Attorney General's website.

In Iowa, your identity theft passport expires after five years. Again, its expiration date will vary based on the state. It’s also possible to get your passport renewed. Please see your respective state government’s website for specifics.

Final Thoughts

Identity theft can ruin you financially, which is why you need to stay vigilant.

Clark always advocates that consumers freeze their credit. Check out our Credit Freeze Guide for a thorough walkthrough of the process.

Clark says someone recently took over his credit card information and tried to go shopping — but he was able to shut them down through his card issuer.

“The credit card takeover, even with my credit frozen, is still a very common thing,” he says. “But the checking account — that’s the one you want to have proof of — in case there’s ever an erroneous warrant issued for your arrest.”

Want more resources? Read our guide on how to prevent, report and repair identity theft.

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